Anti-Choice Protestors Bringing ‘In Your Face’ Tactics to a Family Event Near You

The Bloomsday Race is one of Spokane, Washington’s biggest events of the year. This year was no different, as thousands participated, even with new security measures in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing last month. The event went off with no problems. Well, except for one minor issue: Anti-choice activists brought giant graphic posters to the route as a means of protesting abortion.

Officials admit that they have no recourse, which is exactly what the protesters wanted. Some people got angry. Others yelled. Many more complained that their children couldn’t avoid the pictures. “The images where [sic] horrific and disturbing. No need for that type of protest during a family event,” wrote one person on a Facebook page for the event, according to the Spokesman Review.

Public protest of abortion using graphic material has been a staple of the anti-choice movement since the early ’80s, when activist Joe Scheidler advocated it as a means to engage in protest and “sidewalk counseling” in his handbook Closed: 99 Ways to Stop Abortion. From fliers with graphic pictures that were handed out at public events and marches to larger photos outside of clinics where women would be terminating pregnancies, Scheidler was an enthusiastic advocate for the power of a gruesome image, although he did recommend that the ones at clinics be positioned away from the person doing the actual “counseling” of women prior to their entrance into the clinic in order to not scare them. He also encouraged the use of such photos at pro-choice events or when picketing the homes, private offices, clubs, and places of worship frequented by providers.

Much as anti-choice protesters still use many of the exact same photos as they did in the ’80s, they use many of those same 99 Ways tactics to protest on the streets. Scheidler’s son has continued using those tactics to oppose a Planned Parenthood fundraiser, making viewing abortion photos the price of attendance, and the director of the National Pro-Life Congress did the same for an NAACP awards dinner in Michigan. One anti-abortion extremist in Ohio made viewing his bloody display a prerequisite for voting early at a mostly liberal polling place.

Still, for the most part the target remained adults, and adults in places where anti-choice advocates assume the majority would support abortion rights. That is beginning to change as more protesters are seeking to give the photos wider distribution, and directly affect those under the age of 18. High schools are becoming a favorite protesting place of late, with one “truth truck” driver stating that the giant photos of “dismembered fetuses” displayed on the side of his truck are the only way to get the message across. “They have to see it, not just hear about it,” protester Pablo Flores told the Imperial Valley Press. “It wakes up the people.”

The message implied is clear: If you want these pictures to go away, ban safe abortion. Until you do exactly what they say, they will continue to bring their protests everywhere people gather. Especially family events involving children.

Is it emotional blackmail? Of course. Those who support it say “sometimes the truth is graphic,” as their signs were representative of the realities of abortion. But they hardly represent reality. The majority of abortions in the United States—more than 90 percent—take place in the first trimester and the vast majority of those at the embryonic stage. Whatever the doctored photos being used for “public display,” they all have been magnified to ensure they are as gruesome as possible. “Truth” in most cases would be up to two inches long, but that wouldn’t be nearly as visible (or grisly) on a 6’x10′ placard.

That all body parts and bodily functions tend to have a “yuck” factor (especially when a zoom lens is involved) shouldn’t be lost on the anti-choice contingent. After all, these are the same people who feel that teenagers need to be protected from seeing a demonstration of condom use because it is “too explicit.” If sex ed should be handled by parents, not states, then why is the new front line of abortion protesting the direct targeting of youth with graphic pictures, explicitly rejecting a parent’s right to decide what is or isn’t appropriate for young children?

To anti-choice activists, the answer is simple. The ends justify the means. Just ask Professor Eugene Volokh, who is defending such a case of graphic anti-choice posters being used in a protest at a church in Colorado. Volokh argues that the case is a simple one based on First Amendment rights and freedom of speech, which should always supersede any potential harm that could be brought to young children who are forced to view said “speech.” If there was any doubt that his own personal views might be clouding the issue a bit, however, it should be noted that according to the New York Times Volokh said these images are providing “valuable information to young people.” He stated that “vivid images are ‘very often the most effective way of conveying a moral truth’ and that ‘the gruesomeness of the image reflects the gruesomeness of the act.’” Obviously, in this case, “truth” is in the eye of the lawyer.

The belief that forcing the “truth” via graphic images is worth the cost isn’t just one held by the fringe of the anti-abortion movement, but is surfacing now more among the groups once believed to be the more moderate, public faces of “pro-life.” A recent example is the Susan B. Anthony List’s incessant exploitation of the Kermit Gosnell trial as a means to attempt to garner public support for new restrictions in abortion care. The SBA List was allegedly criticized by members of the GOP for promoting the mini-documentary 3801 Lancaster, a 20-minute film about the illegal clinic operated by the Philadelphia doctor charged with murder, due to its graphic content. Justifying her group’s decision to embrace the “horror” side of abortion, Dannenfesler explained that at a certain point you simply have to make people uncomfortable if that’s what it takes to get the point across.

“I had to really search my own conscience because we generally don’t put a horror picture, we usually show the beauty of the unborn child,” President Marjorie Dannenfelser told Newsbusters, a conservative website. “At some point in time, it became appropriate for the rest of the country, beyond just the activists to actually see what we’re talking about, to see the visual argument…[T]here just comes a point in movements where it would be malpractice to not give the visual argument when it gets to such a point as we are right now.”

Dannenfesler was speaking about showing the documentary to legislators, not young children, but her words aren’t much different from those who pose graphic placards at schools, in public intersections, or even large public events geared towards children. Monica Migliorino Miller, a Michigan anti-choice activist and the woman who took many of the photos currently being used in protests, said this when it came to the issue of children seeing the graphic images:

This crisis requires that the truth be publicly exposed — and the magnitude of the injustice that we face overrides the possibility that children will see the pictures. It simply makes no sense to forego the public exposure of our national slaughter that has sent tens of millions of children to their deaths for the sake of sparing children who might see the photos and who might be affected by them. The horrific injustice of abortion and our nation’s continued support for it requires that the photos be shown — despite the possibility of children seeing the disturbing images…[T]o impose as requirements that children will never see the photos or that they will never be upset by them are simply unjustified demands in light of the need to reveal the truth about abortion in order to bring this injustice to an end.

Even if the entirety of the anti-choice movement isn’t ready to move into a full frontal visual assault yet, enough of them are willing to do so to make any potential outing a protest, and more abortion opponents are coming to their side. Want to feel safe taking a child outside without concern that you’ll have to explain what the giant bloody baby skull across the street is all about? It’s simple; just do what they say and ban abortion.

Otherwise, you have no one to blame but yourself.

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  • Eden Murphy

    Conveying “moral truth” with a bunch of shady medical photos taken out of context? Really? I beg to differ. I have seen many of these photos, they use the same one’s over and over again including the one of the very obviously necrotic fetus that was dead before having been removed from it’s mother. Does anyone ever take the time to validate the stories behind these pictures? Has anyone ever asked these people for show back them up? I don’t think they know the first thing about truth or morality. Maybe someone should counter their protest with the same pictures and provide the background to what they see. My guess is there will be a bunch of photos that a) are fakes b) show the products of natural miscarriages c) depict fetuses that were not even alive at the time of removal from their mothers. Why do we let these people get away with this disgusting behavior? What do you think would happen in a bunch of anti-gun people showed up outside guns shows, gun stores and NRA meeting with pictures of dead children who’ve been shot? I bet they would be removed immediately, may even be arrested.

    • Ingrid Heimark

      The fetus is alive, it is formed early on, so the chance of these pics are real are big, some have been confirmed real. And truly a miscarriage or abortion agt the same stage will look similar depending on abortion method.

      If pictures are gross, maybe the problem is abortion, not the pictures. Every abortion results in a dead fetus. Though I do believe pictures of live fetuses should be used to show the humanity of the fetus. But I find it hypocritical to yell about the pictures whilst what they do is show the reality of abortion, the dead fetus. So many pretend the fetus doesn’t eist, these pics show they do.

      • Ella Warnock

        “I’ will choose the time, place and method of educating my child about abortion. It is NOT the prerogative of anti-choicers to infiltrate family-friendly events with their fetus porn. Marathons, races, music festivals – all wholesome events that have been turned into platforms of late for those who whine that they have no rights while stomping and crushing anyone ELSE’S right to have an enjoyable day out with their friends and family. So, sorry, but if that’s the demographic you’re trying to reach . . . well, you are, just not in the way you want or expect.

        You know, I think that’s part of the problem here. You’re waving your propaganda in everyone’s faces, wallowing in your own histrionic stew and not really getting a pay-off unless you can convince others to join you in your misery. It makes you apoplectic that attendees aren’t going to buy into your OTT melodrama, and they’re just going to ingore you and go about their business, as they should, having some fun after a long week of work. And you CANNOT bloody STAND it that despite your best efforts, most of us will ignore you and continue to enjoy our friends and families and the events.

        You absolutely cannot STAND that WE will not be intimidated and that we WILL make it the fun, family-friendly event it was originally intended to be. We don’t have to engage you, we don’t have to treat you with anymore respect or consideration than we would a bunch of loons from Westboro Baptist, your soul mates in hate. So, hey, follow their lead, see just how far it gets you. All us normal people will be watching and enjoying the schadenfreude. Unpopular post? Nah, delusional is a far more accurate term.

        • HeilMary1

          And I’ll bet “pro-life” Ingrid abuses and bullies any after-birth fetuses that turn out intersexed GAY.

      • Amanda Kazarian

        Should I wave pics of starving, neglected, and abused children that are stuck in foster care at people who refuse to adopt children? It has the same effect. They are not going to adopt unwanted babies any time soon. Just like someone isn’t going to carry out a pregnancy just because abortion bothers you.

      • HeilMary1

        For fairness and balance, let’s show pictures of women grossly disfigured by dangerous pregnancies and pictures of unwanted, forced-birth kids abused by their anti-choice parents. Let’s show the gross birth defects suffered by forced-birth kids whom fetal idolators like Ingrid refuse to support and treat once they’re born.

        • Andrew Patton

          You can try, but I think you’ll lose that argument.

          • Jennifer Starr

            No, she’ll win, because unlike you, she actually has experience and knows what she’s talking about.

          • Arekushieru

            I also see your replies to other topics indicate your ingrained misogyny, as well. So, if your wife asks you to use a condom and you don’t, you’ll forgo having sex? Somehow, I think not. That is sick.

        • Ingrid Heimark

          Do I refuse? Where?

          • cjvg

            So if anyone chose pictures at anti choice family events of a woman dead from refusal of a needed abortion that is just hunky dory?!

            How about a picture of a woman who is brutally raped, with the slogan “do you want to force her to birth his baby”?

            Maybe we should just show a teenage couple having sex (the act in all its glory) to little kids, with the slogan “use a condom, cause mommy and daddy will force you to give birth at 12 otherwise”

            Society at large approved abortion as needed and morally and judicially acceptable, why should your objections be shoved in my kids face?!

            So now i’m should not only not be allowed to have reproductive choice for me, i’m not even allowed to educate my children in my own way about procreation and sexual choices (which, by the way included birth so your view is represented)

            Anything else you feel I should not have the choice to educate my children about?!
            Would you like to mandate which religion they must be indoctrinated with?
            Or maybe which clothes are allowed, or how long my daughters hemline must be before she is considered to be asking for rape?
            Maybe you would like to dictate what and how much education my kids can receive, or if it is permitted to teach them evolution (oops to late)
            Would you also like to dictate what medical treatments I should be able to chose for my children?

          • Ingrid Heimark

            As long as a picture is factually correct, and presented at a reasonable topic-related event, I think it is ok. Maybe children’s events could be spared, but what if you brought a pic of a raped pregnant woman to a pro-life event? If people really believes in what they think they do, t¨hey should be able to answer hard questions on the topic.

          • cjvg

            I personally (and science agrees) believe that fecal transplant is a severely underused cure for Clostridium difficile!
            This preventable and very harmful, hard to treat disease can easily lead to death.

            A quick cure without side effects is fecal transplant, this is not widely used in the US since they are very partial to drug treatments that are unfortunately very ineffective since the disease itself is most often caused prescription drugs (antibiotics)

            So , do I want to see descriptive, accurate and very graphic photo’s at a social event that i’am attending?! NO

            Yes the pictures are factual, yes they are of importance to humanity, yes they save lives, that still does not mean that you can abandon all forms of moral behavior!
            You have no moral right to try to rub your believes in my face at every single chance you get!

            But maybe I should prepare a demonstration with said pictures at your wedding, just for your own good of course!

          • cjvg

            You know why abortion right supporters have not already, because we actually respect others opinions and their right to live their life as they see fit.
            Does of us who support choice, do not feel the need to force others to adhere to our believes, that is what choice stands for and that is what you refuse to acknowledge!

      • Jennifer Starr

        Some of the protesters started yelling out to the children, trying to get their attention. That’s harassment. And years from now, when these kids are grown up, they aren’t going to think of pro-lifers in a positive manner. They’re going to think of crazy people shouting at them and waving signs about. Trust me–I know.

      • Sarah ES

        Most surgical procedures are pretty gross. Open-heart surgery is pretty gross and disturbing. In fact, the human body is actually pretty disgusting, when you get down to it. I’ve watched videos of women giving birth in Procedures Consult, which is far more disgusting than abortion could ever be. That being said, abortion is not wrong just because it looks gross. What a stupid argument.

        • HeilMary1

          What’s grosser than abortion is the face-rotting cancer weaponized by my late friend’s last pregnancy. You should have seen and heard the nasty reactions we got from strangers when we walked around D.C. The hate stares and rude questions reminded me of my nightmare childhood and teen years when I stopped traffic for looking like the human lobster my anti-abortion mom made me into as her excuse to avoid “sinful” marital sex. And the nastiest insults always came from fetal idolators. I’d rather be aborted than abused and insulted by so-called pro-lifers.

      • Juli Kring

        Why is it you anti-choicers are also against birth controll, sex education and afordable health care for pregnant women? I also notice that you never mention our nation’s shamefully high maternal death rate.

        “Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them
        than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the
        husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care
        and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a
        rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no
        voice or representation. ”

        ~ Abigail Adams

        • Ingrid Heimark

          *Why is it you anti-choicers are also against birth controll, sex education and afordable health care for pregnant women? *
          I am not, I am very much in favor of sex-ed, contraception and prenatal care, all free of charge

      • squirrely_girl

        Ever see pics of an infant born with a gross teratoma, particularly one that involves teeth and hair? It’s pretty gross… maybe that means having a child is the problem…

        Ever see pics of a necrotic bowl resection? Totally disgusting. Maybe the problem is the surgery.

        Logic fail.

  • Sarah ES

    I would seriously have no issue with walking up and punching these people in the face. They are truly asking for it.

    • Andrew Patton

      And then you’ll be arrested and sued. If you work for the clinic, the clinic will also be sued.

      • Jennifer Starr

        Only these people weren’t at a clinic. They were disrupting a family event.

      • Arekushieru

        Really? Then why haven’t people sued and arrested people who lied about Planned Parenthood, pregnancy and the clinics they were associated with?

    • squirrely_girl

      As soon as they started yelling at children, they should have been removed. Nobody has a right to harass children.

    • Cactus_Wren

      That’s what they want, Sarah ES: like the Westboro scum, they’re just *itching* for a reason to sue someone.